Sunday, May 6, 2012

Art Jewelry Buzz: Ancient Beads

In my work, I strive for a sense of timelessness by incorporating ancient archetypes and forms into the beads and other jewelry elements I create. I mostly do this by letting my hands and eyes do the "talking". I take my brain out of the process and let whatever I make unfold. Other times I sketch and let ideas pour out onto pages of my notebooks. I also look to sources of inspiration.

Lately, I've been crawling all over the internet finding information, books and images related to the topic of Ancient Beads. I am frankly astonished at how OLD the art of beads is.

I thought I might share a few links and images from my wanderings that I hope will inspire you as well...

Beads go way back, I mean seriously WAY back, 
as in at least 80,000 years ago - I know, like what?!?! 

I'm turning next to the Neolithic Age (5000 years or older) - 

Here's another amazing site with beads from various periods; 
this image depicts beads from ancient Egypt.
 I find these extraordinarily beautiful. 

The preColumbian period features beautiful carved stone beads. 
I love the fantastic shapes: discs, cones, ear spools, 
as well as natural stone and pebble forms.
The last image in this photo depicts one of my favorite colors that
 inspired the name of a color I use in my own work: Yucatan Stone Green.

Here's a one of my favorite sites with tons of information about ancient beads:

This site showcases a fantastic book on old beads 
(which I recently purchased as a used book);
you can peruse samplings of its content here:

Another book just posted in a comment on Facebook by Grace Neff:

I could go on - there is an incredible amount of history to discover.
I hope these links will motivate you to explore further!


  1. What a great post, I love ancient beads and often try to recreate that sort of look and feel with my copper. That first strand of beads is just gorgeous!!!!!

    1. The funny thing is, that they could have been made today or a million years ago. Beads haven't changed all that much have they? Interesting post.

  2. I love to see these old beads. I first purchased a strand of ancient carnelian trade beads while on vacation in San Diego a the Lost Cities bead shop. I use them sparingly as I want to hold on to them for a long while. It's fascinating to think about where these beads have been. Thanks for a great post!

  3. Oh wow - Thanks so much for sharing this post and these photos. I love the Ancient Egypt ones, but would love to have them all - or just see them in a museum!!

  4. Beautiful! I love seeing old and ancient beads and jewelry! It always reminds me what is possible from very few rudimentary methods and tools.

  5. This is an interesting read! Thanks foe the links!

  6. Love this post! Seeing all the beads from different eras made me wonder why they made what they did...what was their inspiration? Great fun to read, Karen. <3

  7. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for sharing this interesting insight to the history of beads. It is amazing how stone and clay bead shapes have not really changed over the centuries. The design of the necklaces are still being designed this way today.

  8. I love this! I have always known the history of the bead goes way back, but wow! These are crazy cool. And I think what is really fun, is we can relate to the people who made these. the work they put into them, how good they felt when the adorned someone- and often, in ancient times and other cultures, your beads and jewelry represented status and such. See, I knew beads were wonderful. thanks so much for the links.


We would love to hear what you have to say, please leave a comment.